I have enrolled in the September 23, 2013 cohort of Hack Reactor (aka HackR), which is a 12-week coding bootcamp (or “academy” as they say) located in downtown San Francisco. I will pay them thousands of dollars so I can spend about 72-80 hours/week training, learning, and exploring –all in an attempt to gain the skills of a software developer (with a focus on web tech).
Hold up. What’s a coding bootcamp?
Coding bootcamps are training courses that teach students the fundamentals needed to become immediately employable in some field of programming (generally web development, but some bootcamps focus on smartphone apps). Most bootcamps require full-time commitment (you must quit your job) and are pretty intense. Students generally “work” for more than 40 hours per week.
I put “work” in quotes because it in this case, I’m using the word to cover many different things that happen in a typical day at a bootcamp. Students listen to lectures by faculty and guest speakers. Students program in pairs. Students study and complete assignments. Most importantly, students get a ton of hands-on learning experience. Bootcamp curriculae typically involve projects that help students establish a portfolio of apps.
Bootcamps are a great option for people who want to switch from a non-computer science career to a programming-heavy career. That said, there will be some CS grads in some bootcamps because college often neglects to teach relevant hard skills like how to use git.
Coding bootcamps are also called programming bootcamps, developer/dev bootcamps, etc. The term “bootcamp” is sometimes replaced with “immersive course” or just “immersive.”
Check out this video to get a sense of the Hack Reactor vibe:
Why pick Hack Reactor?
In the coming days and weeks, I am going to extensively blog about my experience researching different bootcamps in a series unsurprisingly entitled Coding Bootcamp Research. The series will cover all the ins and outs of how I examined my options, the admissions processes, and my decision to choose HackR over its competitors.
To give you the gist of it, I chose HackR because it seems to produce the smartest bootcamp “grads” through a combination of high quality faculty/curriculum and lots of time. What I mean by “lots of time” is that faculty are on the clock from 9am-8pm x 6 days/week instead of the typical 9am-6pm x 5 days/week found at other bootcamps.
The claim that HackR has the best grads is backed up by…more claims. They claim that 100% of their grads find a developer job within 3 months after graduation. They claim that the average starting salary of their alumni is somewhere around $100,000 (I don’t remember the exact dollar amount because the raw amount matters less than how high it ranks). No other bootcamps claim to have such high levels of success.
Why should I believe Hack Reactor? Because I trust them. And I would normally litter such claims in my blog with relevant links, but the previous few paragraphs lack links because I will simply discuss these things in much greater detail in future blog posts.
I have a lot to say regarding HackR’s pros and cons. I have a lot to say about the pros and cons of App Academy, Coding Dojo, General Assembly, Dev Bootcamp, and the brand new RocketU as well. So stay tuned.
So… what now?
I have about a month of funemployment left before HackR dominates my life. During that time, I have to deal with financial concerns, HackR introductory homework, and my own personal goals.
Money, money, money (moneyey!)
This is about to get a bit personal, so prepare thyself.
I need to deal with tuition. $2,000 down. $15,780 to go. In the word of the great philosopher, Bart Simpson: “Eep.” Luckily, my mom has offered to cover my tuition. At first, I was reluctant to accept. After all, I have the money…sort of (most of my money is in stocks). I wouldn’t have much left over if I paid tuition myself, but the real reason I hesitated to accept my mom’s generosity was based on principle.
I like being independent in many ways. Financial independence is one of those ways.
I often question what my mom thinks rather than just accepting her ideas at face value. I changed my mind about her offer by using a thought process I use whenever I encounter this questioning that routinely visits my mind. The process is simple. I ask myself, “How would I feel if I were the parent?” Obviously, I easily consider what happens when I’m the child. So when I consider the parent perspective, I can imagine being a parent considering the child perspective too.
But let’s not get too cyclical/meta because I was telling a story that actually has an ending.
As I thought about things from the view of my hypothetical, futuristic, child-rearing mind, I realized that if I were in my mom’s shoes, I would very much want my son to accept my money. The reason? Principle.
OMG @RebootJeff just paradoxed himself #WTF #ICallBS #hypocrisy
Shut up and listen. You can posit that I’m merely rationlizing a money-grubbing stance, and I know that’s what it looks like, but I hold myself obligated to meet the same standards and expectations when I’m finally a parent. In this case, the expectation I’m talking about is the responsibility (and deep desire) to help my child
become a Neil deGrasse Tyson badass get really awesome education.
Not to mention, my family has that traditional Asian risk-aversion baked into its collective mind. However, as my mom pointed out, pursuing fantastic educational opportunities shouldn’t be considered a (financial) risk to avoid if the parent can help out.
The curriculum begins now
There are a few tasks to accomplish prior to the first day of class other than making HackR rich(er). The bootcamp’s pre-course work requires about 90 hours of dedication (about 50 hours mandatory + about 40 hours optional). I’ve been instructed to…
Complete a lot of Code School tutorials (which is a bit of a bummer because I’m tired of online tutorials).
Learn about git via various videos and tutorials (which should be easy because I already know some git).
Build a basic Twitter clone (which sounds so difficult that I can’t wait to do it –what an odd feeling).
Check out a list of optional online resources.
My own pre-course to-do list
I plan on completing most of the optional pre-course work (in addition to the mandatory parts), but I also hope to make time for some other pre-course goals of mine. Maybe some are covered by the pre-course work, but here’s a comprehensive list:
Watch videos re: Sublime Text wizadry
Consider PAYING for Sublime Text to get rid of the money-begging feature
Figure out regex
Get intimate with that scary thingamabob known as Linux shell
Buy a notebook that is made of something called “paper”
Conform to a proper sleep schedule (makes me cry just thinking about it)
Watch more lectures from Berkeley’s CS169: Software as a Service
Buy tons of snacks/drinks because I won’t have much time for grocery shopping during bootcamp weeks
Attend lots of dev meetups, especially Odin Project meetups
Think of how I want to make my own HackR vlog
Take one last hit of that autocross high
Finish reading some rather disturbing-but-amazing Batman comic books
Deactivate my online dating profiles because I won’t have time for that crap (although it’s not like I was a total playa to begin with)
Help a roommate build a new PC (he’s never built one before)
Make at least 1 more faux vlog episode
Make at least 1 music recording
Most of all, I want to write up a LOT of blog posts documenting all the research I did when investigating coding bootcamps.